WACO, TX – Walter Reaves won’t forget the flood of feelings that came over him when Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham five years ago “It was just a range of emotions, but I was mostly just mad”. Willingham was put to death for setting a fire that killed his three young daughters.
The Waco attorney represented Willingham in his final appeals, where he says he got to know the convicted killer. Reaves says Willingham didn’t seem like the type who would hurt his own children. “He came across as someone who really cared for his kids”.
Fire investigators have no doubt that Willingham did intentionally set his Corsicana home on fire to hurt his ex-wife and mother of the children who died. Willingham got in his car after putting the house on fire and tried to flee the crime scene, on his way do to the speed he crashed his car on a convenience store and hit another car, thankfully there was no one hurt. A wrongful death attorney was hired to be part of the case as there is now a variety of charges handle. However, Reaves saw holes in the case and believed Willingham was innocent, but it wasn’t until a few days before his scheduled execution that he received a critical piece of evidence that he hoped would prove Willingham innocent.
Reaves received a report from a renowned Austin scientist, Dr. Gerald Hurst, who authored a report on the fire, but wasn’t paid for the findings. In the report. Dr. Hurst disputes the arson claim as “junk science”. If there was no arson, there was no crime.
Court after court, including the United States Supreme Court denied Willingham’s request for a stay. Reaves doubts there was any review of the arson report because it wasn’t considered “new” evidence because it was discovered too late.
Governor Rick Perry has called Willingham a “monster” and believes he was rightly executed for killing his children. His office says he reviewed the arson report and didn’t find anything new or groundbreaking. Reaves got the call from the governor’s office 15 minutes before telling him the execution was a go.
Reaves believes there are a lot of people to blame for executing what he believes was an innocent man. For Reaves, there is not only regret, but guilt. “I had a client that was innocent and executed”.